Saturday, June 9, 2018

Canadian monument to controversial Ukrainian national hero ignites debate

A Canadian monument to a hero of an anti-Soviet nationalist uprising in Ukraine is raising questions about the manipulation of historical memory for political purposes.

Critics of the monument say Roman Shukhevych was also a ruthless Nazi henchman and honouring him plays into the hands of the Kremlin propaganda machine that seeks to delegitimize the very idea of Ukrainian statehood.

The bronze bust of Shukhevych, one of the leaders of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (known under its Ukrainian acronym UPA) during WWII and immediately after, has stood quietly at the entrance of the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex in North Edmonton, Alberta, for 45 years.

Shukhevych’s stern gaze has greeted generations of Ukrainian-Canadians who came to the centre for various community activities, oblivious of the national hero’s messy wartime record of mass murder and ethnic cleansing.

But a series of tweets by the Russian embassy in Ottawa last October, decrying the presence of Nazi monuments in Canada has put the wartime record of the OUN and UPA and one of its most famous and controversial leaders under public scrutiny.

The tweets focussed on three monuments: the bust to Shukhevych and two monuments to the veterans of the 14th Waffen SS Galicia Division that was renamed into the 1st Ukrainian Division shortly before the end of WWII. One of these monuments is located at the St. Michael’s cemetery in Edmonton, the other is in Oakville, Ontario.

Ukrainian-Canadian historian John-Paul Himka, believes the Russian embassy tweets are part of a propaganda campaign by the Kremlin.

“They have an interest in these matters because they are trying to present Ukraine as a fascist regime and as a Nazi coup, so that fits into their agenda and they like to create division and chaos in democratic countries,” says Himka.

But it doesn’t mean that some of the Russian allegations are untrue, Himka says.  (more...)

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